Split Decision

It was the summer of 2011, and I’d just completed a harrowing articling year at a big corporate law firm. I was given nearly four months off before returning to work as an associate, and to celebrate my new-found freedom, my sister and I booked a trip to beautiful Croatia.

We flew into neighboring Slovenia, picked up our shiny black Peugeot, and with nothing but a map, a few Kunas in our pockets and a lot of misguided optimism, hit the road on a two-week road trip along the Croatian coast.

The first half of the trip was amazing: we drank our weight in Ozujsko in Zagreb,

danced on some solar panels in Zadar,

and met some long-lost extended family in Sibenik. 

By the time we hit the buzzing port city of Split, nothing could get us down- not even our un-air conditioned, possibly bed bug infested accommodations.

 Our first full day in Split started out splendidly – we enjoyed a breakfast of Nutella on Nutella crusty white bread on a stunning patio overlooking the Adriatic, and spent the morning exploring Diocletian’s Palace,

before making our way back downtown for our daily “cocktail hour”.

 Everything was copacetic- until mother nature called.

 The one thing about Europe no one really prepares you for are the bathrooms. With most public facilities, you are forced to leave a Euro – and often, your dignity- at the door, as you shamefully squat above a hole in the ground to conduct your business.

Did I mention that toilet paper costs extra?

After realizing this early on in the trip, I had been actively trying to consume fewer liquids during the day to avoid the horror of this arrangement. For the most part, this worked great. (You know, aside from the severe dehydration, dizziness and near heatstroke).But after one (ok, three) glasses of lovely Croatian wine, I couldn’t avoid it any longer.

So I dragged my sister along in search of a somewhat hygienic, less nightmare-inducing facility. The situation was looking pretty bleak- until I discovered the private washroom stalls in the Split Ferry Terminal.

 I handed 5 Kuna to the bored-looking bathroom attendant in exchange for two measly squares of sandpapery toilet paper, and rushed in line behind a dozen other tourists, anxiously shifting my weight from one foot to the other.

 Finally, it was my turn. Never before had I experienced so much relief.

 I finished my business and turned the lock on the door, only to realize…. It wouldn’t budge.    

 I took a deep breath and tried the lock again. Still nothing.

 Instantly, the panic began to set in.

Ordinarily, I would have just crawled under the door to freedom, however these stalls were, unhelpfully, of the floor-to-ceiling variety.

 “Hello??” I called “Can someone help me? I’m locked in”. Although I heard dozens of female voices milling about outside, many of which were in English, not one responded.

 Not only was I beginning to feel claustrophobic, the floor-to-ceiling doors were also magnifying the extreme heat, causing me to sweat profusely. Between this and my ensuing panic, I was rocking a 10 on the Whitney scale.

 “Hello??” I tried again, this time banging on the stall door with both fists “Can anyone hear me??”

 I was starting to wonder whether this sanitary napkin box was going to be the last thing I saw before I died when I heard the sweet sound of my sister’s voice echoing through the crowded bathroom. “Bree?”  She asked “Are you still in here?”

 “Sherene!” I shrieked, “I’m locked in!! You have to help me”

 There was a pause. Then a slight giggle.

 “What do you mean you’re locked in?”

 “I can’t get out!” I squeaked, fighting back tears, “Seriously!”

 “Ok, just a minute”, she replied, sensing the gravity of the situation.

 “Can you help my sister?” I heard her ask the attendant, “She’s locked in the bathroom”,

 “No,” responded a bored voice,  “I only do toilet paper”.


“Just hang tight,” shouted Sherene “I’ll go find someone!”  

After what seemed like an eternity of sitting on top of the toilet tank, taking shallow breaths to conserve my quickly fading oxygen, I heard her return. “I’m back.” She said “I found two police officers. They’re going to break down the door”

“Break down the door??”  I squeaked, “How?”

“They’ve got an axe” she replied, “stand back”

The excited murmur and occasional shriek of the gathering crowd assured me she was not messing around. Great, NOW  these b*tches are paying attention, I thought.

This was not good. The room for error in the approximately  0.5 sq ft. stall was minimal. Any way you looked at it, chances were I was getting decapitated. 

I racked my brain for a solution, and remembered a few years back when I accidentally locked myself in my parent’s bathroom. (yes- this happened more than once.)  Although I had freed myself in that instance by climbing out (and getting temporarily stuck in) a small, hexagonal shaped window, my dad had later shown me a trick to get the broken lock to open, involving jiggling  and pulling up on the lock at the same time.

In a last ditch effort to save myself from being sent back to Canada in a body bag, I tried it out. Miraculously, the door swung open; revealing my sister, two fumbling rent-a-cops, and a crowd of excited, formerly deaf onlookers.

“Oh.. hi.” I said, blushing profusely “I got the lock to work so… I.. uh…guess you won’t be needing that!” motioning at the fisher-price looking axe.

I thanked the rent-a-cops for their assistance and hightailed it out of there; with Sherene laughing hysterically by my side.

“It’s not funny!” I snapped

“Oh but it is,” she replied, snorting.

As you might imagine, this became my sister’s favourite story of the trip, and soon everyone had heard about my little mishap in the Split ferry terminal. I’ve heard more “how many lawyers does it take” jokes than I can count, and I still can’t go to the washroom without my family asking if I need a chaperone.

While I laugh it off, to this day I still carry a few extra bobby pins in my back pocket….just in case. 

Question of the Day: Ever locked yourself in or out of something?

Written for today’s DP Challenge: Uncanned Laughter – A misused word, a misremembered song lyric, a cream pie that just happened to be there: tell us about a time you (or someone else) said or did something unintentionally funny.


14 thoughts on “Split Decision

Add yours

  1. I was a teenager babysitting a couple of neighborhood kids. It was late. The kids were in bed. I was drinking a Coke — one that came in those tall glass bottles — and watching the made-for TV movie about the Boston Strangler. I had finished the Coke and was playing around with the bottle when my finger got stuck inside. The harder I tried to pull it out, the more stuck it seemed to get. Boy, this was going to be embarrassing when the parents came home. I finally got my finger unstuck using a combo of liquid soap and cold water. Whew.

    So, yeah, it was kind of like locking a part of myself in something.


    1. This story made me giggle. And also made me think of the Full House episode where Kimmy Gibbler is babysitting and the kid gets his head stuck between the stair railings, so she butters his head to get him out. Oh, Kimmy Gibbler.


  2. Awesome story, dude. I went to Bulgaria a few years ago and was equally dumbstruck at those hole-in-the-ground toilet things. It’s astonishing how frugal an old woman can be with the paper when she’s the one guarding the stuff.

    I remember sort of getting stuck in an office toilet once. I was wearing headphones so inadvertently started shouting and swearing louder than I realised, and couldn’t hear the person on the side either.


  3. I’ve lived in the UK for seven months, and for some reason, I feel compelled to say “Not all Europe!” Maybe just eastern/Mediterranean Europe? I did not squat in Hungary or the Czech Republic either , so maybe that’s like a very regional thing? Either way, oh god, no. That is a horrifying story.


    1. You’re right- they are definitely not everywhere! Mostly in Eastern Europe.. and even Croatia is getting better… but still, one is enough to scar you for life!


  4. My mom was in Europe and after using one of those weird bathrooms you pay for, a woman grabbed the door to sneak in without paying. It turns out that these bathrooms are cleaned from having water pour from the ceiling in between uses. So this woman’s free bathroom trip resulted in her being soaked with cleaning fluids. Awkward! But luckily it wasn’t my mom – she just got to watch the embarrassment.


  5. This is a great story! You may find this to be totally bizarre, but I am writing a collection of stories about toilets and the awkward/undignified situations that they cause. (This was prompted by my own awkward times in China with squat toilets.)

    I may be calling on you to see if I can use this!! Great minds…


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